JBuzz News March 8, 2013: Richard Breitman, Allan J. Lichtman: “FDR and the Jews” New Book Tries for Balanced View on Roosevelt and Jews

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Book Tries for Balanced View on Roosevelt and Jews

Source: NYT, 3-8-13

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A new Harvard University Press book examines President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s broader record on Jewish issues.

https://i2.wp.com/www.hup.harvard.edu/images/jackets/9780674050266.jpgIn “FDR and the Jews,” Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman, professors at American University, contend that Roosevelt hardly did everything he could. But they maintain that his overall record — several hundred thousand Jews saved, some of them thanks to little-known initiatives — exceeds that of any subsequent president in responding to genocide in the midst of fierce domestic political opposition….READ MORE

Sarah Traister Moskovitz: CSUN Professor Emeritus Preserves Warsaw Ghetto Poetry in Online Book

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Source: San Fernando Valley Sun, 8-25-11

Sarah MoskovitzPolish Jews faced a cruel destiny in 1940. Nazis soldiers had crammed more than 400,000 Jewish citizens into 1.3 square miles of territory known as the Warsaw Ghetto. From there they would be taken by trains to death camps.

Left in ruin, with faltering spirits, shattered hope and deteriorating health, the people of the ghetto began collecting all kinds of information to document their history for the future. The group was called the Oneg Shabes — Joy of Sabbath group. It was organized by a history professor who was an underground leader and social worker in the ghetto named Emanuel Ringelblum.

Their work came to be known as the Ringelblum archives. They contained, among other things, underground newspapers, public notices by the Jewish council, stolen Nazi propaganda and poetry, which was all illegal to write and possess under penalty of death.

“I thought it would be very interesting to look at the Yiddish poetry,” said Sarah Moskovitz, professor emeritus at California State University, Northridge who compiled poems from the Warsaw ghetto into a new online book, “Poetry in Hell.”

“I became interested in the material and I knew it was housed in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. I was fortunate to learn from the historian Samuel Kassow that this poetry had recently been sent in microfiche format to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C.”

In 2001 Moskovitz applied for a grant from the Emeritus and Retired Faculty Association (ERFA), proposing to translate the poetry. She was awarded $1,500 from ERFA and invited to come to the museum as a visiting scholar with an additional grant from the museum. With the help of her husband, Irving. spent three weeks going through the relevant microfiches to make copies to translate when she returned to California. He also made unreadable microfiche copies readable.

“It’s been a 10-year endeavor,” Moskovitz said. “I not only wanted the English translations, but wanted to keep the original Yiddish language in case future scholars wanted to see the originals, which has made getting it published very difficult.”

The collection contains 153 poems, most of which was written during the Nazi occupation of the Warsaw ghetto. Some were written by professional poets, some by amateurs. Several were not written in the ghetto, but were the favorites of people living in the ghetto so they were collected with them, Moskovitz said.

Moskovitz divided the poetry into five different groups: “Nature;” “Home, Love and Life;” “Ghetto;” “Hunger and Struggle;” “Death, Protest and Mourning;” and finally, “Tradition, Faith and Legacy.”

Moskovitz starts with “Nature” because she wanted to introduce a sense of familiarity to the reader. Each section deals with particular themes. “Home, Love and Life” is people recollecting normalcy. Poems about home life, parents. “Ghetto” is life in the ghetto, which included the daily struggles and hunger the poets suffered and witnessed. “Death, Protest and Mourning” deals with loss of family, attachments people one loves through illness, death, people being taken away, dying, disappearing. “Tradition, Faith and Legacy” deals with the underground, forbidden schools that were training young people who survived to continue with tradition.

Most of the poetry was written by adult males in their 30s. About one-fifth of them are anonymous, while the others have an author attributed to them. There are six poems written by women and one written by a child.

“What piqued my interest and made it intense was my own life,” Moskovitz said. “My parents were Polish Jewish immigrants. I never met my other family that both my parents left behind in Poland, like cousins, aunts and uncles. I have one picture of an aunt Rivele with her husband and three children taken in 1938. They disappeared in the Holocaust and were never heard from again. Murdered in Treblinka? Auschwitz? Babi Yar? Even the Red Cross Tracing Service does not know. By the time I was 13 I knew that if I hadn’t grown up in the United States and my parents had stayed in Poland, I wouldn’t be alive.

“In a way, I was uncovering what could have been my past and paying homage to the families that belonged to my family. I learned a lot about history. A lot of detail and a lot of courage it takes to go into it,” she said. “I wanted to know. I was inspired by the fact that there are people who can write even while living in tragedy. I, myself, shut down during tragedy. I admire that ability and it is inspiring that some people were able to do that.”

Sarah Moskovitz taught at California State University, Northridge for 28 yearsand retired in 1997. She taught human development and even developed a course in adult development. She also taught individual counseling, group counseling and family therapy.

She did research on people who were children during the Holocaust and established the first organization that gathered them together in the Los Angeles area called Child Survivors.

“In that first group, there were only 35 people,” she said. “Now there are thousands who meet internationally. These are people who lived in Europe during the war and survived. Some survived camps. I gathered them together and wrote a book in 1981 called ‘Love Despite Hate: Child Survivors of the Holocaust and their Adult Lives.'”

Moskovitz’s current poetry collection of the Ringelblum Archive Poetry translated from Yiddish to English can be found and freely downloaded online at www.poetryinhell.org. It contains a forward and introduction by two eminent historians: Professor Samuel Kassow of Trinity College in Connecticut and Professor Michael Berenbaum at American Jewish University in Los Angeles.

Ruta Sakowska: Historian & Warsaw Ghetto expert dies at 89

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DEPARTED

Source: JTA, 8-23-11

Historian Ruta Sakowska, one of the world’s leading experts on the World War II Warsaw Ghetto, has died. Sakowska died Monday in Warsaw at the age of 89.

Sakowska, who was born in Vilnius in 1922, served as director of the Ringelblum Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

The archives, established clandestinely in the Warsaw Ghetto by the historian Emmanuel Ringelblum and his secret Oneg Shabbat resistance team, document every facet of life and death in the ghetto and also document the fate of many other Polish Jewish communities. The documentation was hidden in milk cans and metal boxes on the eve of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. Some 25,000 pages of material were recovered from the ruins of the ghetto after the war. Ringelblum himself was killed by the Gestapo in 1944.

In 1997, Sakowska received the Jan Karski and Pola Nirenska Award for her work on the archives.

Dvir Bar-Gal: Cultural Exchange: Preserving the relics of Shanghai’s vanished Jewish population

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Source: LAT, 7-17-11

Gravestones, many plundered or built over, are symbols of a forgotten group. Dvir Bar-Gal, an Israeli expatriate, works to preserve them.

Cultural ExchangeJewish gravestones being unearthed from Shanghai villages. (Dvir Bar-Gal)
By Dan Levin, Special to the Los Angeles TimesJuly 17, 2011

Reporting from Shanghai ——

The green fields on the western outskirts of this vast metropolis are dotted with ripening ears of corn, trash and the skeletons of half-built villas abandoned by bankrupt developers. But Dvir Bar-Gal, an Israeli expatriate and photojournalist, saw none of these as he trudged toward a putrid creek, his eyes scouring the ground. Rather, he was looking for something far older: gravestones buried in the mud — the lost relics of this city’s vanished Jews

“When I go out to these villages filled with peasants it’s almost like I’ve gone back to another era,” he said. “Sometimes I’m lucky. Suddenly I’ll see Hebrew letters or a Jewish star poking out. Then I have to dig it up.”

Since finding one for sale at a Shanghai antique shop 10 years ago, Bar-Gal, 45, has made it his mission to find the Jewish tombstones that once stood in four cemeteries belonging to the real-estate barons, bankers and penniless refugees who settled here before the Communists took power in 1949 and expelled China’s foreigners. During World War II, around 30,000 Jews fleeing Hitler found safe haven in the open port of Shanghai, where they built synagogues, Yiddish theaters and yeshivas even as the occupying Japanese forced many to live in a cramped ghetto.

If the Nazis failed to wipe out these Jewish lives, China’s Communist Party succeeded in erasing their deaths. In 1958, the government relocated all foreign graves to one international cemetery, which was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, when locals plundered the gravestones to use in construction. Although the Jewish bones are irrevocably lost, Bar-Gal, a blunt, balding man who left behind a job covering the chaos of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to devote himself to documenting Shanghai’s Jewish history, refuses to allow the elaborately carved markers to be consigned to the trash heap.

“It’s harder and harder to find them now because of all the development,” he said, pointing to new houses rising nearby.

In collaboration with the Israeli consulate, Bar-Gal has so far found 105 gravestones and has created the Shanghai Jewish Memorial Project tracking down the descendants of those who died and documenting their lives. He hopes one day the gravestones will become part of a Jewish memorial in the city’s Hongkou district, which once housed the ghetto and the Ohel Moshe synagogue, now a museum of Shanghai’s Jewish refugees. But, according to Bar-Gal, the district government has denied his request, claiming the gravestones would bring bad luck.

So they languish, cracked and broken, stored in a warehouse and piled up in a parking lot at the city’s Buddhist cemetery, which was once the international cemetery. With no one to look after his collection, the gravestones sometimes go missing. In April, Bar-Gal received word that two were on display at the Shanghai Burial Museum, which also functions as a crematorium….READ MORE

Dvir Bar-Gal: Shanghai’s Jewish history

Shanghai’s Jewish history

 Source: AP, 6-5-11

Not far from the Bund district in Shanghai, with its hordes of tourists and view of the city’s famous skyscrapers across the Huangpu River, is a quiet neighborhood called Hongkou.

Walk here along Zhoushan Road and you’ll stumble on a sign that signifies an otherwise unremarkable building at No. 59 as a landmark.

“During the World War II,” the sign reads in imperfect English, “a number of Jewish refugees lived in this house, among whom is Michael Blumenthal, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury of the Carter Government.”

The marker offers a clue to the hidden Jewish history of Shanghai and the incredible story of thousands of Jews who fled the Nazis and found refuge here in what was the Far East’s only Jewish ghetto. Among them was Blumenthal, who fled Europe with his family, spent part of his youth in Shanghai, then moved to the United States.

The best way to learn about this unusual slice of Jewish and Shanghai history is on a tour with an Israeli expat, Dvir Bar-Gal. But be warned: This is no superficial glance at the highlights; this is a five-hour, $60 mini-course with Bar-Gal as professor. With his encyclopedic knowledge and intense passion, he brings to life a vanished world, attracting visitors from every continent, many of them descended from the Jews who survived World War II only because they found refuge in Shanghai.

“No other place in the whole world saved so many Jewish lives,” Bar-Gal said, adding that “there is no anti-Semitism in China.”…READ MORE

German communities that murdered Jews in the Middle Ages were more likely to support the Nazis 600 years later

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Source: Slate, 6-1-11

If a century seems like a long time for a culture of racism to persist, consider the findings of a recent study on the persistence of anti-Semitism in Germany: Communities that murdered their Jewish populations during the 14th-century Black Death pogroms were more likely to demonstrate a violent hatred of Jews nearly 600 years later. A culture of intolerance can be very persistent indeed….

The authors of the new study, Nico Voigtländer of UCLA and Joachim Voth of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain, examine the historical roots of the virulent anti-Semitism that found expression in Nazi-era Germany. In a sense, their analysis can be seen as providing a foundation for the highly controversial thesis put forth by former Harvard professor Daniel Goldhagen in Hitler’s Willing Executioners. Goldhagen argued that the German people exhibited a deeply rooted “eliminationist” anti-Semitism that had developed over centuries, which made them ready accomplices in carrying out Hitler’s Final Solution….READ MORE